Rhyolite’s Neighbor: The Goldwell Open Air Museum… The Desert Series

A tall, naked, pink lady is visible from the Nevada ghost town of Rhyolite. Known as the The Venus of Nevada, this 1992 work by Hugo Heyrman is part of the Goldwell Open Air Museum.

A tall, pink lady is visible from the Nevada ghost town of Rhyolite. Known as the Venus of Nevada, this 1992 work by Hugo Heyrman is part of the Goldwell Open Air Museum.

The first time we drove into Rhyolite, I noticed a tall, naked  lady with blond hair next door to the town. And no, I hadn’t consumed any peyote or other hallucinogenic drugs normally found in deserts and used by shamans to enter places that might be inhabited by tall, naked, pink ladies. I was gazing down at the Goldwell Open Air Museum, a truly unique art museum in the world of art museums.

Goldwell was started in 1984 by the Dutch artist Albert Szukalski as a way to display ghostly figures he created by wrapping live models in wet plaster. Soon, other Dutch artists joined him in his efforts to create a sculpture museum in the desert. Today, a Nevada non-profit organization cares for the museum and supports on-site artistic endeavors.

I’ve blogged about the museum before and I will undoubtedly blog about it again. Why? I’ll let the photos tell the story.

Albert Szukalski's work, The Last Supper, was the first sculpture created for the Goldwell Open Air Museum.

Albert Szukalski’s work, The Last Supper, was the first sculpture created for the Goldwell Open Air Museum. The mountains and clouds provide a dramatic backdrop for the sculpture.

Albert Szukalski's Last Supper sculpture at the Goldwell Open Air Museum just east of Death Valley National Park.

Using Davinci’s fresco of the Last Supper as a model, Szukalski wanted a desert setting for his sculpture. Here, the ghostly figures are seen from behind.

Lady Desert and the Last Supper sculptures at the Goldwell Open Air Museum located east of Death Valley.

Lady Desert, the Venus of Nevada, is located behind the Last Supper. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Looking up at Lady Desert at the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Nevada.

Hugo Heyrman used cinder blocks in his creation of the Venus of Nevada to represent the pixellated, technological world we live in. I found this perspective interesting. Peggy just shook her head.

Ghost Rider Sculpture by Albert Szukalski at the Goldwell Open Air Museum east of Death Valley.

A local resident of the nearby town of Beatty donated his bike and his body for this sculpture by Albert Szukalski. He served as the model by allowing wet, plaster infused burlap to be draped over his body.The sculpture is appropriately named Ghost Rider.

Every lonely desert prospector needs a penguin for company, right? Wait, isn't that a donkey? The artist Fred Bervoets decided on a penguin for his tribute to Shorty Harris at the Goldwell Open Air Museum. And Fred is an artist; he's supposed to see the world in a strange way. As for Shorty, he was a legendary prospector who worked the Rhyolite area.

Every lonely desert prospector needs a penguin for company, right? Wait, isn’t that a donkey? The artist Fred Bervoets decided on a penguin for his tribute to Shorty Harris at the Goldwell Open Air Museum.  Shorty was a legendary prospector who worked the Rhyolite area.

Couch by Sophie Siegmann at the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Nevada.

This couch by Sofie Siegmann is titled “Sit Here.”

the Sit Here couch by Sophie Siegmann at the Goldwell Open Air Museum near Beatty, Nevada.

So Peggy did. The buildings in the background are located in the ghost town of Rhyolite.

Detail on couch sculpture at Goldwell Open Air Museum.

The back of the couch featured this face. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Statue of Icara by Dre Peters at the Goldwell Open Air Museum.

Dre Peeters named his hand carved statue Icara, a female equivalent of Icarus, the legendary Greek boy who flew too close to the sun.

Wagon wheel at the Goldwell Open Air Museum near Beatty, Nevada.

An old wagon was located at the base of the Icara, so naturally I had to take a photo of its wheel. It makes a fitting end for this blog about an art museum located next to a ghost town.

NEXT BLOG: Off to the well know California ghost town of Bodie.

 

 

 

24 comments on “Rhyolite’s Neighbor: The Goldwell Open Air Museum… The Desert Series

  1. The Ghost Rider’s my favorite. As for the pink lady, my first thought was of sugar cubes, not pixels. I’m more firmly grounded in the analog age than I realized.

    The best photo may be the one showing the pink lady lurking behind the Last Supper. That’s a great perspective, and amusing in a way I can’t quite articulate. I like the wagon wheel, too.

    Bodie may be a well-known California ghost town, but I’ve never heard of it. I’m looking forward to the introduction.

    • You’ve never heard of Bodie, Linda? You just have to get out and about more. LOL Maybe Bodie is only known to people who like ghost towns and frequently drive up and down California’s Highway 395. (grin) 395, BTW, gets my vote as being one of America’s most scenic highways. I really like Ghost Rider as well. –Curt

    • It has for quite a while. A few pieces (not there anymore) were done in by windstorms. It is definitely a desert treasure, made even more so by being so unexpected. –Curt

  2. This is wonderful, whimsical art Curt, and the real beauty is the contrast of the art to the desert. My favorite is the couch, but the plaster ghosts are so cool, I’m surprised I haven’t seen it before. ~James

  3. Very cool. The sofa reminds me of the benches in Park Guell in Barcelona.
    My wife grew up in southern California and she and her family often visited ghost towns on their vacations. I visited Bodie with her a long time ago. Looking forward to seeing it again.

  4. I love sculptures! The fact that these are surviving in this environment is amazing. I love to go back to just see if they survived!!! Peggy

    • They are very creative artists, D. It is a fun site to visit. I consider it three-in-one since I get to visit Rhyolite, the Goldwell Museum and Death Valley in one trip. –Curt

  5. The penguin was used because you’re about as likely to find gold in the desert as you are to find a penguin

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